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Ellen Shapiro

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Posts posted by Ellen Shapiro

  1. I'm nearing the end of the food photos. I have a few more, and if there are any specific requests I can see if I have something filed away, but I'm going to switch to a few non-food photos for a change of pace.

    Before the service I wandered around the dining room and took a few snapshots. I figure most people haven't seen the place, given that about 65 people a day eat there out of 5 billion in the world, so this is the general environment. I didn't have any big lights or a wide angle lens, but I hope you can at least get a sense of the place.

    These are a couple of different banquettes set for the dinner service. You'll notice there are some differences. The restaurant has a large collection of little art objects and table decorations and each table is seen as a composition by the staff. One of these tables has a bronze statue on it called "Cityman" and the other has those little trees. As far as I know every single thing on the table is custom crafted for Ducasse: you can't get those wine glasses or those plates anywhere. The banquettes are made of a very cushy "like buttah" sueded leather in those festive colors and if you're a woman on either edge of the banquette bench they put a little stool next to you on which you can rest your handbag (I kid you not).

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    These are some non-banquette tables. These are also nice to sit at. A lot of people request them over the banquettes. I generally like chairs better than banquettes, but both arrangements are very comfortable here. There really aren't any bad tables in this dining room; it's more a question of preference.

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    A visual focal point of the dining room is this sculpture by one of my least favorite sculptors in the world: Arman. Love him or hate him (and most people feel one way or the other) it is a dramatic centerpiece for the room.

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  2. You're having trouble seeing it because it's underexposed and out of focus, but I posted the photo anyway because I thought it had informational value. Let me do the best I can to get closer in on what you're asking about:

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    As I mentioned, we've now seen this dish in three versions, so I can't be sure, but I think it's all fish. I think the underlayer is a tuna and herb salad based on cooked tuna, and I think the pearly colored thing on top is a piece of raw fish with a little sauce drizzled on it. The dark lines around the edges are very old balsamic vinegar.

  3. One more garde manger item before we get back to hot food. This is the way they were putting out the tuna tartare/carpaccio the night I was photographing it. The dish changes, though. The night we had it, it was a big square on a big square plate. Another night when we saw it go out to a table it was round and filled the whole plate. This is the first time I saw it plated with those little chunks of seared tuna.

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  4. I really developed a new appreciation for the garde manger function while watching the ADNY crew in action. In a lot of kitchens even ones with a lot of stars the garde manger is "the guy who puts salad on a plate" and "the guy who pulls the pre-molded tuna tartare out of the fridge." This is not at all the way it goes down at ADNY, where the garde manger people are "the ones whose knives are so sharp they can cut a fly in half while it's alive and airborne."

    Every time they plated up a portion of this foie gras dish ("Terrine of fresh duck foie gras, apples and quinces cooked together") I was amazed at the attention to detail and the impeccable angles not a tenth of a degree off, as though the knife had been guided by a compass and protractor. Nice knives too. A little slice removed from the edge where exposure to air had made the color less acceptable (most would surely just put that side face down on the plate). And the positioning of each element on the plate, the garde manger crew devoted intense concentration and focus to those decisions. Occasionally Delouvrier would come by and nod, and less often he would say, of a dish that looked perfect to me, something like "What is this? You know how much people are paying for this and it looks like crap! Make it again!" (All the dialog in the ADNY kitchen is in English even though Delouvrier and a high percentage of the cooks and staff are native French speakers.)

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  5. I'll just keep posting photos of ADNY's food and kitchen until somebody tells me to stop or I run out of them, okay?

    Okay. The garde manger station in the ADNY kitchen has four cooks working at it, and some of the most beautiful dishes coming out of the kitchen come off that station. The garde manger station at ADNY reminded me of a pastry kitchen in terms of the meticulousness of the staff and the precise designs of the plates.

    This is the dish that Steven and Moby raved about above and I'll add my voice to the chorus: "Variegated scallops, clear Osetra caviar, lemon and olive oil." The white underlayer (the one wreaking havoc with the exposure) is salt, formed in a mold and established on the plate as a bed. The scallop shells are cleaned and selected for beauty and each is filled with two scallops that have been briefly marinated (just a few minutes) in lemon and olive oil and topped with enough Osetra caviar from Caviar Russe to have some relevance to the discussion of price above. While we were in the kitchen the restaurant's controller came in to have Delouvrier initial the invoice from that day's caviar order: 1 kilogram, $3,000.

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  6. White truffles aren't the only kind of truffles in use at ADNY. There are also plenty of black ones.

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    Scottish pheasant with vegetables "au pot" is I believe what this dish is called. There was a menu change going on and this was a dish that was on the white truffle menu last week but is now being done in a different variation, this time with a black truffle infused sauce. I will double check the name of the dish later.

    The dish is a good example of the meticulousness with which the kitchen approaches plating. I hope at least a few customers every night pause to appreciate the amount of work that goes into some of these plates. This one starts out with a painstakingly arranged vegetable base.

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    The breast meat from the pheasant is gently laid on top of the vegetables.

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    Then the legs are carefully trimmed and placed at the ends of the breasts.

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    And voila:

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  7. M. Satran, I've been in a few dozen restaurant kitchens to take photographs and the ADNY kitchen (and also the kitchens I've seen at Mix and ADPA) is remarkable for the sheer quantity of beautiful things all around you. The challenge for a photographer in most restaurant kitchens is to make it not look like a mess. At ADNY you can photograph anything and it will be very presentable. They are very concerned with aesthetics not only of the presentations of food but also of the way they keep their mise-en-place and all the elements of the kitchen design. There is also a picture window from the dining room that looks on to the kitchen, so there is nowhere to hide. In most kitchens when you do photography there is a nervous chef or sous chef following you around and cleaning and tidying things so you don't photograph anything that looks bad. At ADNY I was unsupervised and nobody did anything special for me except give me snacks, and as far as I could tell nobody had even been told I was coming.

    One very striking element of the kitchen design is the lighting. There are two separate lighting systems, one for prep time and one for service. During the afternoon, up until 5pm, the kitchen is brightly lit with similar lamps to what you see in most kitchens: there is a lot of light so you can see what you're prepping and get all the little touches right. Then the staff goes on break from 5pm to 5:30pm and at 5:30pm when service begins, Steven likened it to the starship Enterprise going into battle mode. All of a sudden all those big lights get shut off and a secondary lighting system of tiny halogen spotlights, hundreds of them, gets activated. There is virtually no ambient light in the kitchen at that point. Light only goes where it is needed for service. The effect is dramatized by the black granite countertops thoughout the kitchen, which absorb any light you shine at them. It creates a very calm and focused atmosphere for service. And the kitchen is quiet, scary quiet, compared to a normal kitchen.

  8. Pedro, "carabinero" is how Delouvrier referred to the prawn. I tried to google it but didn't have a good enough guess on the spelling. Thanks for posting that.

    Moby, I will keep a running list of questions for Delouvrier and call him for answers some time this week or next weekend.

    I'll try to get a few more photos online this afternoon.

  9. Probably the most oft-repeated quote from Alain Ducasse is his quip that "turbot without genius is better than genius without turbot." Luckily, you don't have to make that choice at ADNY. You can have both. And that's not all you get! You also get white truffles!

    This is the last of the three white truffle dishes that I was able to photograph (and taste). This is turbot from Brittany "au Champagne" with a Spanish prawn and white truffles. The dish was being served with crayfish Nantua until a few days ago when the supply of good crayfish dried up. The prawn seems so right for the dish, though, that Delouvrier might never go back.

    Some of these truffle dishes are built tableside with some drama, so this here is the initial minimalist setup: just a piece of turbot with the Champagne sauce, plus that big red prawn. This is a split portion, by the way.

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    Then a sauce is added.

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    And finally the white truffles are shaved over the plate to complete the composition.

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    The turbot is on the bone, as it should be, because all that gelatin in the turbot's unique bones gives added flavor, and the bones have the benefit of being some of the easiest of all fish bones to handle; the flesh slides right off. That prawn from Spain is just barely cooked through and so moist, not at all like a the dried out lousy shrimp you get most places. It reminded me of the "royal red" shrimp we had in Gulf Shores, Alabama. With the addition of the truffles, this dish becomes something very special.

    Much more to come but I'm turning in for the night.

  10. Pedro, sunchokes are very versatile. Like potatoes, they have some flavor of their own but are great vehicles for other flavors. In this dish they were creamy and velvety in the mouth, and had a slight sweetness like squash with a slight earthiness like potatoes. I've had them cooked other ways where they were more sweet and crunchy and they sometimes taste a little like artichoke hearts but not much.

    This is another truffle menu dish that I was able to photograph while it was being plated on the pass. The truffles are shaved in the dining room at the table, so what you will see here is pre-addition of truffles. These are the foie gras ravioli.

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    The really nice thing about this dish, if you happen to be hanging out in the ADNY kitchen on any given night, is that every time they cook an order of these ravioli they make one extra just in case one of them falls apart during cooking and plating. But it never does! So there's always one extra piece to snack on!

    The foie gras ravioli are not my favorite foie gras dish at ADNY, though. I like the terrine and the sauteed foie a lot more. Not that I'd say no to foie gras ravioli with white truffles, but it's not the dish I'd recommend for the big splurge. The next dish I'll post a photo of, though, is another story . . .

  11. DutchMuse, as luck would have it I tasted some of the dishes from the white truffle menu last night and, even better, I have photographs.

    Thinking that perhaps the eGullet crew would enjoy some photographs of the food at ADNY, I arranged to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen last night. Christian Delouvrier and his brigade were very accommodating, allowing me to wander around the kitchen and photograph whatever I wanted. I also got to do some serious snacking. The conditions were somewhat challenging, with a swarm of cooks whirling around me all armed with sizzling skillets and saucepots, and I felt that one false move at any time could land me in a 50 gallon steam jacket kettle. But I was able to get a few snapshots that I'd like to share with you all here.

    It may take me some time to process all of these. I've just returned from two months in China and Tibet and have several thousand photos to go through from that trip. But I'll post the ADNY photos as I get to them.

    For this post let's start with the first dish on the menu tartufi di Alba: farm egg "en cocotte" with mousseline of sunchokes and tartufi di Alba. I have to say I am a bit uncomfortable talking about white truffles. This menu costs $320, or you can get truffle dishes from the carte for a $70 per dish supplement. It is a bit obscene. Yes, yes, I know the "children are starving in Africa" argument is wrong as a matter of logic, but still just the economic conditions I grew up under make it borderline horrifying to me that people spend this kind of money on food.

    But I would also love for every one of you to taste ADNY's egg en cocotte with white truffles before you die. It's that good.

    The eggs are cracked into a pool of sunchoke puree and cooked in miniature Staub cast iron pots in a water bath on the stovetop.

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    When the egg is just shy of setting, it is removed from the heat and a white Alba truffle the size of a baby's fist is brought into play.

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    The finished dish:

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    While photographing the dish in the "aquarium" adjacent to the kitchen, I saw on the bookshelf that the title of Christian Delouvrier's cookbook is Mastering Simplicity. This dish, I would say, represents true mastery of simplicity.

    More later.

  12. On a visit to see my cousin, who lives on Staten Island, we stumbled upon Philip's after a visit to the used bookstore a few doors down. The place has an old style feel to it -- in a good nostalgic kind of a way. It's not that the chocolate is anywhere near the best I've ever had but the feel of the place is authentic and while a lot of the chocolate selections are candy-bar quality, I asked about alternative options and I was pointed in the direction of the more expensive dark chocolates made with imported French chocolate. I liked the place. But then again, Economy Candy is my favorite candy store – not because it has the best products (though some, like the halava, are arguably amongst the best of their kind), but because the combination of ingredients that make the whole combine to create a store that gratifies all of my senses. If only for a throw back to childhood, it’s worth a trip to Philip’s if you’re in the neighborhood.

  13. Having met many people from religions whose adherents don't imbibe, I can say from my experience, in general, I've never met anybody who would be offended or made at all uncomfortable by others imbibing in the same room. So I tend to agree that it's just not a problem.

    I think wnissen, just by starting this topic, has proven that he is a great host!

    Now, just a quick reminder, we need to talk about food and related issues here, not about religion per se. I know there is overlap -- this is a food-religion-etiquette issue -- but it's a question of emphasis and focus. Here is a link to eGullet's policy on discussion of politics and religion. Let's all try to stick to it. Thanks for your help.

    http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=31878

  14. This is a great topic and I appreciate the responses that have been posted, however I've had to remove several posts that were probably well-intended wisecracks but were off-topic and ran the risk of being seen as disrespectful to the Mormon religion. Please refrain from such comments, and let's get back to the food-culture aspect of this, which is really quite interesting.

  15. We were back at Korin with my brother yesterday. He bought some kind of very expensive knife with a two-tone wood handle. Two Korin updates:

    There is a 15% off sale for the entire month of July.

    There is a new catalog out and it is beautiful. Most of the old catalog's content has been preserved but there is now a whole section at the back with comments from many Japanese and Western chefs. Definitely request a copy.

  16. New York Burger = just the lettuce and tomato, $5

    New York Cheeseburger = with choice of American, bleu, Vt. cheddar, Swiss, or Jack, $5.50

    Skyscraper Burgers = double patties, $7 or $7.50 with cheese

    (All patties are 6 ounces)

    Chicago Burger = applewood bacon, cheddar, 1000-island, $6.75

    Dallas Burger = fire-grilled onions, Jack, BBQ sauce, $5.75

    Seattle burger = portabellas, grilled onions, "burger sauce," $6.50

  17. Can anyone report on what the prices are like?

    As of yesterday the menu still said "Preview Menu" or something similar so I didn't want to photograph it or post the numbers. Prices are very reasonable in my opinion. Today is the official opening day. Tomorrow I will be in the neighborhood and will try to take notes on the official menu.

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